Joro Spider Not as Scary as It Looks

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A large spider on its web, spider is mostly yellow with blue banding and red markings on its side

The Joro spider is a large, yellow-striped spider spreading across the Southeast. Image: Christina Butler.

Similar to murder hornets in 2020, the Joro spider is having its five minutes of fame! Recent headlines across the U.S. describe this yellow and black spider as “venomous” and “expected to drop from the sky”. Despite the scary headlines, there’s no need to panic. Yes, they’re big, and yes, they are spreading and likely to come to North Carolina. But, they are harmless to humans and pets and could even be considered a beneficial organism.

Native to Asia, the Joro spider was first detected in the U.S. in 2013 in Georgia and has since spread into South Carolina. Isolated reports suggest the arachnid may already be in North Carolina, but these have not been confirmed. It is a large spider, reaching 3 inches in length, with a large yellow and blue striped body with red markings on its side. Its legs are long with yellow banding. As the headlines imply, it can get as large as your palm, with a sizeable web size to match.

There is good news! Despite being a non-native species, research from the University of Georgia suggests Joro spiders have little to no effect on local food webs and ecosystems. They could even be viewed as beneficial, contributing to pest reduction as they prey on plant pests and as food themselves to birds and other predators.

As far as the scary headlines, Joro spiders are venomous in terms of how they subdue their insect prey; they are not harmful to humans. In terms of dropping from the sky, like many spiders (and as showcased at the end of Charlotte’s Web), newly hatched Joro spiders produce silken strands used to ride the wind to new areas.

The only real threat they post is as a nuisance pest. Joro spiders are large and many people consider spiders unwanted or scary. On the flip side, Joro spiders are seen by many as pretty and beneficial. However you see them, the reality is they are on their way and will likely be something you’ll have to learn to live with.